Cleaning solar panels: Yes? No? How?

Some people who are interested in solar panels are worried by the perceived challenges of maintaining their array. However, it should be noted that solar panels are actually extremely easy to maintain, and a lot of the work is done for you. This is even true with cleaning your panels, and in the UK, there is typically very little need to manually clean them.

However, there are some circumstances in which it is best to actually put some time and effort in to keep your panels in the best possible shape. Here we will look at when you need to clean your panels and when it is fine to leave them.

Are solar panels affected by dirt?

Solar panels can be affected by dirt but this is not always the case. Clean solar panels will always perform the best, but it’s worth remembering that standard rainfall will actually do the majority of the cleaning that your panels require. It is only when dirt builds up to the level that it is not being cleared by rainfall that you may need to manually clean your panels. Otherwise, just as with the solar panels, it is best to let nature do the work for you!

Bird droppings

One type of dirt that is more likely to have an affect on the effectiveness of solar panels is bird droppings. Droppings that have dried typically won’t be washed away by standard rainfall in the way that other dirt and dust will. Droppings can be especially problematic for solar panels on roofs that have other items that birds can land on such as aerials.

Concentrated areas of bird droppings can cause problems, as hard shading has the potential to negatively affect the output of the panel. If you find that your panels are often covered with droppings, it may be necessary to clean them regularly.

Only clean panels if you can do it safely

One of major challenges that solar panel owners face is that their panels are not easily accessible. If your array is on top of a roof, climbing up there to clean them can put you in a hazardous position. This means it is always best to do your cleaning from ground level if possible. It may be possible to use a telescopic extending hose and brush (like those used for cleaning windows from ground level).

If this is not possible and you feel that you will need to get onto the roof to clean your panels, it can be worth considering simply living with the dirt making a small change to the output, rather than putting yourself in a dangerous position.

Tips for cleaning your solar panels

  • In most cases water is enough – for the most part, the best way to clean solar panels is by rinsing them with nothing more than water from a hose. For general cleaning this is more than enough.
  • Be gentle! – even with dirt that won’t budge with water, it is important to remember that you should be gentle with your solar panels when cleaning them. Abrasive cleaning products are a definite no – it is generally only necessary to use a cloth or sponge to wipe the panels clean.
  • Cleaning products – some cleaning products can damage solar panels, so it always recommended that you check the manufacturer’s guidelines or simply use water if in any doubt. Certainly, you should thoroughly rinse off any cleaning products you do use.
  • Water temperature – remember that if your solar panels have been in direct sunlight for much of the day, you need to be very careful when you clean them. Using very cold water on hot panels can actually cause them to crack. Of course, this is a worst-case scenario but it can occur.
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